Sunday, January 20, 2008

Migrations: New Directions in Native American Art

Three Part Series:
1. Intro & Vision for Migrations
2. Jurors & Contributing Authors
3. Migrations Artists

Part One, Intro & Vision for Migrations
It was a pleasant surprise to learn that the Migrations: New Directions in Native American Art exhibition was going to be showing at the Boise State University Visual Arts Center Gallery. I am going to give a public talk about the Migrations art on February 8th at 6:30pm in the Hemingway Gallery.

We're at the start of our new semester here at BSU, and I'm writing this primarily for our new batch of art students, including our usual suspects in the MFA area. Consider this to be a pedagogical entry that sometimes veers off to commentary from an artist, which is a very accurate reflection of my life as both an art professor and artist.

If you can, go to the above link and get the catalog; it's more a combination of a focused survey about Contemporary Native American Art and a broader view that includes a more inclusive interpretation of how to describe relevant art being produced in America at the start of the 21st Century. Please visit the numerous links in this posting to get an inkling of who and what the art, artists, jurors, writers, contributors, organizations and so on are all about. It really is an all-star list from the world of contemporary art. No lightweights here.

One of my own most challenging aspects of teaching art (to both undergraduates and our MFA students) has to do with how to get them to navigate towards finding significant meaning with their own art. I require them to research other artists, especially those of whom are wrestling with the creative process in ways similar to their own challenges. I would put forth the argument that there are a lot of artists out there that are off the beaten path, but are making great art nonetheless. See the article "Tribal Hybrids" in the Art News June 2007 issue, by Cynthia Nadelman regarding many Indigenous artists that are not nationally known yet, but are on the verge of various types of breakthroughs. On the other hand, this Migrations exhibition is a fairly high profile exhibition with lots of venues and a most excellent catalog with lots of interesting critics, artists and art professionals contributing essays. It has certainly acted as momentum for not only the creation of new art, but for more venues and opportunities for us, the Migrations artists (Well, for me anyway).

A Rarefied Vision & Rounding Up Key Support

The Migrations, New Directions in Native American Art project "was developed to identify and showcase Native American Artists who are working with a contemporary vocabulary," as written by Marjorie Devon, the Director of the Tamarind Institute at the University of New Mexico. Marjorie and the Tamarind have a history of innovation as being a world-renowned center for fine art lithography and influence on contemporary art for the last few decades. The Tamarind has a long track record of producing not only editions of lithographs by a who's who of national and international artists, but of also training new master lithographers. The Tamarind also goes out of their way to work with Indigenous artists, and I'm happy to say that I've worked with their master printers a couple of times on collaborative lithograph editions. Their staff people are creative, smart and personable problem-solvers when working with artists. The Crow's Shadow Art Institute was brought in as collaborative printers too (more on them later). Marjorie Devon was definitely one of the key players that brought everyone together; one of her gifts is doing the behind the scenes work that makes art projects a reality, which is so rarefied these days. Thank you Marjorie, you are amazing and it doesn't surprise me that you are constantly bringing forth new art projects in addition to running the Tamarind's operations (which includes acquiring a new building by the way).

The Migrations project was partially funded by grants from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts (the foundation is leading the way with a lot of innovative arts initiatives and funding) and the National Endowment for the Arts (stop by and take a peek at what your arts organization is up to). Getting the funding to initiate the project was a major coup in itself, let alone doing all of the planning and work to make the Migrations project a reality. This was one of those ambitious art projects that involved people who represented a wide spectrum from the art world, which is what took it to a higher critical level.

It was clear that everyone involved had higher hopes than usual for this art project, and each brought their own unique sensibilities to the project. Linda Weldy Bahm, the Director of the
University of New Mexico Art Museum, wrote in the catalog that "Migrations exemplifies three goals shared by the University Art Museum and the Tamarind Institute- presenting the work of outstanding Native American artists working with a contemporary vocabulary, broadening the understanding of contemporary Native American Art, and encouraging serious discourse related to Native American Artists." I'd have to say that they were aggressive about carrying out these plans, as seen with how they initiated a critical discourse with the variety of jurors and writers they brought in to compose essays for the catalog.

See Parts 2 & 3, which talks about the jurors, contributing authors and artists, to be posted soon.

ISBN 10:

ISBN 13:

University of New Mexico Press, Edited by Marjorie Devon

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